BRADFORD Metropolitan Food Bank is facing crisis point, handing out more food parcels than ever before.

The charity distributes more than 1,000 monthly food bags – compared with just 28 a month when it was set up in 2004.

Treasurer Keith Thomson said the food bank urgently needed donations of food and money to continue, and he blamed benefit changes, zero hours contracts and “unlimited” private rent increases for the hike in demand.

Mr Thomson said many people receiving food parcels were in employment, but warned that those on basic wages were struggling to cope with rising food prices.

“Demand is the highest we’ve ever had. This is the worst time we’ve faced in 14 years of the food bank,” said Mr Thomson. “We’re having to buy in more food to provide the range of items in each bag, and we’re simply running out of money.”

The food bank, which distributes to families in need and vulnerable people, receives donations of food and money from schools, Age UK shops, supermarkets, businesses, churches, mosques and gurdwaras. But Mr Thomson warned it will struggle to cope during the summer holiday period.

“Harvest Festivals, Eid and Divali are our times of plenty. We also scavenge perfectly good food left at Leeds Festival.

“Just before October half-term, schools have food collections, and about 30 schools donate to us. But that’s three months away and we’re struggling,” he said. “Without more donations there’ll be less food items in each bag, we can no longer provide for a balanced diet or dietary needs.”

Mr Thomson said several factors had led to the crisis. “In the main, demand is rising with Universal Credit delays and benefit changes. Rent must now be paid monthly, rather than fortnightly, which is difficult for many people. Another factor, a Brexit effect, is rising food costs, which are bigger than people’s incomes. Zero hours contracts mean too many people are on a basic wage, rather than a living wage. And there are unlimited rent increases. Most people no longer live in council-rented accommodation, and the private rent sector isn’t so controlled. Rents are rising faster than incomes. For many people, it’s having a roof over their head or food on their table.”

The charity’s figures show that in the year up to February 2017 11,000 food bags, each valued at £15, were distributed and £25,000 from an income (of donations) of £31,000 was spent on buying food, with the rest on insurance and equipment such as plastic bags and storage boxes. In the year to February 2018 the food bank gave out 12,500 bags, with income down to £28,000.

Mr Thomson said: “In 2010 we distributed 1,000 bags, in 2014 it was over 800 bags a month, with the year’s total at 10,000, containing over £150,000 worth of food. The 2017 figure was 11,252 bags.

“We’ve had to dig into our reserves to purchase food. We now have to pay rent for storage premises, for the first time in 14 years, although this isn’t unreasonable, particularly as there’s a reduction due to our charitable status.

“For more than a decade we’ve had magnificent support from the public, from all cultures, but to meet the growing need as Universal Credit bites and the gap between minimum and living wages isn’t reduced, we need significant, immediate support.”

The food bank was opened by Lashman Singh, founder of Bradford Curry Project, a drop-in meals service for homeless people. A team of 50 food bank volunteers pack up parcels distributed districtwide by more than 100 organisations, including social services, housing associations, Citizens Advice Bureau, the NHS, community centres, child care providers, mental health groups, the Probation Service, doctors, ministers, imams and head teachers.

l To make a donation call Keith Thomson on (01274) 542672 or email